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New citrus trees resist illness.

After years of studies, a Texas researcher has developed grapefruit trees that resist a devastating virus and the insect that transmits the disease.

Twenty transgenic Rio Red grapefruit trees, which resist the citrus tristeza virus (CTV) and its vector the brown citrus aphid have been planted with USDA permission in research plots in Weslaco, Texas.

"The virus resistance in these transgenic trees is pathogen derived," says Erik Mirkov, project leader and molecular biologist at the Texas A&M Agricultural Research and Extension Center in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. "The gene is actually from the virus, much like vaccinations that are given to humans to prevent disease. The insect resistance is from a naturally occurring protein from the snow drop lily, a plant commonly found in the northeast United States. This protein has toxicity to insects but not to birds and mammals."

The transgenic trees will be allowed to mature to fruit-bearing age, Mirkov says, then evaluated on their agronomic traits to ensure they still produce fruit preferred by consumers and growers.

Mirkov began his transgenic citrus research in 1996. His future work will involve producing more transgenic trees and testing them for insect resistance.
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Publication:Resource: Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2000
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